My entire life had been in a single large city. I loved the important hustle of the daytime and the somewhat dangerous excitement of the night. Art and fabulous food fed my deeper cravings. Still, I always felt that my forever life was waiting for me somewhere drastically different. On impulse, I moved to San Diego, California. I had never been to San Diego. Nor did I know a soul living there.
It was darkly lonely at first. By the end, I’d met my best friend, learned how to surf and sunbathe without burning my Irish skin, bought a car by myself, hauled a television equal to my weight up a spiral staircase, and discovered sushi. I did return to my home city, but not before this:
On a solitary, uphill walk one morning I came upon a beautiful stucco church having service. I slipped in just after the gospel. At that point in my life, I didn’t recognize the writer within me, but what that pastor said in his sermon is a central part of how I carry myself as a writer and why the people who support me were compelled to do so.
The gist of the pastor’s sermon was, “Go through the motions, and I promise you faith will find its way in.” In essence, Fake it ‘til you make it.
How many of you wrote your first story in secret? Me too. Didn’t even tell close friends? How many of you gave any answer but “writer” when people asked you what you did? My plan was to succeed in private, and then when I was a real writer I would tell people. Didn’t work out. How’d it work out for you?
When I received my first big rejection, it came as a surprise. She loved me, I loved her. She felt passionately about my story. But in the end, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have a large enough platform to merit taking me on in addition to her full client load.
I’d kept my secret too well. By not wanting anyone know to know I was a real writer, I wasn’t. I wanted to disappear into my head and cradle my crushed, private dreams.
But that was not how to get what I really wanted, and I wanted it really badly.
So I started faking it. The real MM is shy and private. The real writer MM is comfortable and confident. When I felt the smallest, I made myself go big. As big as possible. I told everyone. I shared my work. I joined writers’ groups. Stopped keeping to myself at events.
Wrote “writer” in the space after Occupation. Added an email signature with my genre and links. I reached out to people in the industry and potential readers.
Feeling like a writer begins with presenting ourselves that way. Not that it’s an easy thing to do. I flailed at my first hundred attempts to answer “writer” at corporate cocktail parties and on football sidelines. Awkward. Silence. Beam me up, Scotty.
Use my pain for your glory. This is what I’ve figured out.
Be positive. – Insecurity is not a great sale pitch. It yields pity instead. The people who ask you about your career are at the crossroads of being your followers or helpful colleagues…or not.
Give them something to be happy for you about. – It doesn’t take a lot. You read that there is a real market for what you write. You went to a great conference. You’re making great friends with other writers. Your blog has attracted a greater number of views than you ever expected. It’s not like you have to give them your stats. Maybe you expected 15. Someone big requested your full manuscript. No offer yet, but lots of interest. You’re knocking on the door. The paper chose your title to review.
Have something in the future to share too. – You’re about to take a workshop you’re excited about. You’re going to a writers conference next month and the line-up looks fantastic. Your agent is going to have lunch with an editor from William Morrow. You’re going to speak to a book club or guest blog.
We follow this rhythm in regular conversation, but our regular ease gives way to our writerly fear when our profession is the focus. This is a skill to learn, because the situation does not go away. We face it when we are aspiring and never stop facing it. The line simply moves – the reputation of who signed us, advances, contract terms, distribution, sales, awards, etc.
It’s a magic formula. The better I got at “faking it,” the more people wanted to help me succeed. The facts of my career had not changed. I was the same person. My writing was not suddenly better. But when I heard my own voice frame the state of my career this way, I saw myself differently too. Like faith into that pastor’s followers, recognition found its way into me. Not only did my audience believe I was a real writer, I felt like one too.
A line from my novel Forget We Met is “Doneness smells different.” Tabitha, a chef, pulls bread out of the oven before the timer beeps. She can sense that it’s ready. So can editors, agents, readers. You are real. Act it. Feel it. Be it.
It also works for surfing and hauling televisions.
MM Finck is an American author whose novel Forget We Met is currently under consideration at multiple agencies. She treasures personal connections with, well, anyone. When she’s not writing with the internet shutdown, you can find her on facebook.com/mmfinck , on twitter @MMFinck or blogging at mmfinck.blogspot.com.
Sites That Link to this Post
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